In the before times, I used to go to trade shows. Around this time of year, I’d begin to prepare to make the annual pilgrimage across the North Sea to Frankfurt for three days of hiking around the vast musical experience that is/was Musikmesse.
Fun fact — one year I worked out that I walked 13 miles to and from meetings. Yes, it’s that big.
Apart from the hot dogs, the highlight of each trip was being invited to the secret Vestax room. I’ve seen things in there that I should now feel free to talk about, but were shown in secret and will remain so, unless they appear in public somewhere.
Usually, I can talk endlessly about new DJ gear. When presented with new shiny, I see the pros and cons and happily share them whether they like it or not. That is after all why I’m shown right?
But this is the one piece of gear that stunned me into silence. And even now when I look at it, I have nothing but admiration bordering on lust.
I’ll let Toshi explain what it’s about:
The height of the DJ mixer was limited to 80mm, the height of the control surface from the bottom of the SL1200MK2. This was the standard, and there was no other option. The carrying case and the design of the booth were all made to these dimensions.
In 2010, when the USB MIDI controller VCI-100 was starting to be recognised, I thought that I could finally present a future digital mixer that wasn’t limited by the size of the turntable, so I planned and created the DIGITAL MIXER. I wanted to produce it somehow. However, many of our distributors told us that the JOG wheel was not included and that we should prioritise the development of other mixers and controllers.
So this model which is not exhibited in public.
It still looks great today!
Yes. Yes it does.
Bend it until it breaks
I love it when people bend the established rules or just ignore them completely. But when it’s done with an eye on moving things forward and not sticking with existing paradigms because that’s how it’s always been done, I’m even more for it.
I cannot overestimate the impact this had on me. The only words that came quickly were “wow” and “fuck”. On the face of it, it’s just a shallow mixer. But on the other, it throws away convention and does what it wants — not for the sake of it, but for sound reasons.
Does a mixer need to be Technics height? Of course not. It’s just a waste of material. Has nobody heard of wooden blocks? Or even specially designed metal stands? And look at how easy it is to cable up. It’s literally right there — no awkwardly peering over the back into a dark corner hoping to hit the right RCA.
What is it though?
It’s strange — I see a mixer, but it’s also a controller. While I get the distributor feeling about the lack of jog wheel, they’re not always needed. And it’s not like you couldn’t pick up units to add on. I’d happily use this with an iPad and djay Pro AI. And I’d use the screen for hot cues.
Vestax always did have a thing for short runs and one-offs. Toshi and his team always tinkered with ideas and often made up prototypes to show at trade shows. Some ended up on the show floors as trial balloons, while others stayed strictly behind closed doors.
But god do I miss the days of always being surprised. The days of the risk-takers. The people who made crazy things because why the hell not. It’s how things move on — they’re dismissed as massive mistakes or progressed to be necessary boundary pushers.
We need some crazy ones back again.
Do you like it?
I love that I can show this now, and would love to get some feedback. Does this float your boat or sink your ship? Would you walk over hot coals to own this? Or is that just me?